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Port decision shows how far we have come - and must go

Last week's decision on the future of our port shows how far we have come in just four years. Four years ago the port was about to be sold off by the previous Government. All that was required was a flick of the Minister's pen. Last week the Ports Minister came to Dover to make a very different kind of announcement.

The port will not be sold off to the French or whoever. Instead it will have to powers it needs to raise money for investment. Looking at the waterside we can see how badly that investment is needed. There will be a community fund for the benefit of the community. It will have initial and ongoing funding. This is an important as a key complaint of many is that the port does not benefit the town enough.

Yet most importantly the community will be represented in the boardroom. The Minister's decision that we will have community directors we can have trust and confidence in is key. Because we need to ensure there is an ever closer partnership between the port, port businesses and the community.

For decades there has been tension in the port-community relationship. This needs to change and the only way to change it will be by bringing together the port and the people. This is what the People's Port was all about. If the port was to be sold then we wanted to buy it to drive that partnership. The end of the privatisation threat did not make the need for a true partnership go away.

Only if we all work together will we see the kind of Dover we want to build. Only then will we get the investment and have the sense of common purpose that is required to change Dover. The Minister's announcement sets the path for change and reform.

It will not be easy. We now move to the stage of hammering out the details. Goodwill must be shown on both sides to make this work. The Harbour Board will have to make the leap of faith to accept the need for real community directors rather than puppets. That it will be a community led port.

Equally the community needs to take the leap of faith too. To place more trust in the reformed Harbour Board. To get involved with the kind of changes we can make to our waterfront. Not to simply assume the Harbour Board will just please itself but work with us all.

We have before us a great opportunity. A chance for the unity and common purpose that is required to change Dover forever. To make our town a jewel in the crown of the nation. A place people want to visit. The first sight of England that makes us proud and impresses people from overseas. The challenge lies with us all to be big enough to take the leap of faith, forge this partnership and change Dover forever.

Conservative run Dover District Council is moving ahead with plans to demolish Burlington House and redevelop the site on Dover's Townwall Street. Do you support this?

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Dover & Deal Conservative Association, 54 The Strand, Walmer, Deal, Kent   CT14 7DP
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